9 Muslim ministers in Lanka resign over alleged links with attackers

Vastavam web: Nine Muslim ministers and two provincial governors from the minority community resigned Monday to allow the Sri Lankan government to investigate allegations against some of them on links to an Islamist extremist group blamed for the deadly Easter suicide bombings. The Muslim politicians also protested what they term the government’s inability to ensure the safety of their community which constitute 9 per cent of the island’s 21 million population. There are 19 Muslims lawmakers in the 225-member Parliament and nine of them held Cabinet, state and deputy ministerial positions.

Their resignations came four days after thousands of people, including majority Buddhist community monks, launched a protest in the pilgrim city of Kandy, demanding the expulsion of three Muslim leaders whom they alleged were linked to the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) – the banned outfit blamed for the attacks on three Colombo hotels and three churches.

Following the April 21 attacks that claimed 258 lives, some Muslim politicians representing the government came under criticism for their alleged support extended to the rising Muslim militancy. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiyutheen was accused of supporting the ISIS-linked NTJ. The Sinhala majority nationalists were demanding the sacking of Bathiyutheen. The Opposition moved a motion of no confidence in the Parliament against Bathiyutheen, who has denied links to the NTJ and its terror activities.

“We took this decision (to resign) as a responsible community who is keen on ensuring reconciliation and peace in the country,” said Kabir Hashim, a senior minister. He said since the Easter Sunday attacks, the Muslim community had volunteered to give information on the NTJ. Hakeem said the Muslim community is concerned over the arrests of some innocent Muslims for alleged connections to the Easter Sunday attacks.

He said that police must hold a proper inquiry and punish anyone if the terror group had been supported by them. Western Province Governor Azath Salley and Eastern Province Governor MALM Hisbullah, handed over their resignation letters to President Maithripala Sirisena in response to protests by the Buddhist monks, officials said.